Major League Soccer positional Top Tens: RIGHT MIDFIELDERS

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(UPDATED … )

First things first: Landon Donovan would be at the top of this list, and easily so – but he’s not eligible! Feel free to check back April-ish.

As we roll through our positional rankings, the outside midfield position gets tricky; the players manning these flank midfield spots aren’t as sharply defined as, say, center backs, goalkeepers or outright strikers.

(Heck, even Donovan could be classified as a Top Ten at three different spots. By the way, who cares what the guy is doing to the LA Galaxy — look how this rascally troublemaker is mucking up our rankings!)

Plus, an “outside” midfielder in a 4-3-3 is mostly a central mid who leans to one side. In those arrangements, the highest right-sided presence is more of an “outside midfielder.” So, apologies if a couple of names here don’t qualify as flank factors in your book.

Disclaimers aside, here is how we see the league’s Top Ten in right-sided midfielders going into Major League Soccer’s 18th season.

(now revised … reflecting Mauro Rosales as a right-sided midfielder rather than an attacking midfielder)

1. Houston Dynamo’s Oscar Boniek Garcia

2. Columbus Crew’s Eddie Gaven (pictured) >

No, the Crew’s longtime Steady Eddie is not a name brand, not exactly, anyway. But he delivers reliably in a system that demands so much from that spot. And several times a season he goes from work-a-day to outright difference maker.

3. Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi >

SKC’s U.S. international can certainly play interior roles, where he has been found most frequently in Peter Vermes’ 4-3-3. But Zusi usually finds himself outside when national team opportunities arise, and given Kei Kamara’s departure (a tough gap to fill), we can probably expect to see the skillful attacker leaning further to the flank in SKC’s personnel alignment.

4. San Jose Earthquakes’ Marvin Chavez

5. Seattle Sounders’ Mauro Rosales

6. D.C. United’s Nick DeLeon

7. FC Dallas’ Jackson

8. Portland Timbers’ Kalif Alhassan >

This is where we see a wide man in a 4-3-3 stand in as a flank midfielder. There certainly are tracking duties and other defensive chores with these guys. It’s not like they get to stand on the sidelines waiting for their next chance to dribble and cross.

9. New England Revolution’s Kelyn Rowe

10. Philadelphia’s Sebastian Le Toux >

He can sometimes lose tactical discipline, but that little dimple may be mitigated in 2013 since his defensive duty will be slightly reduced; Le Toux will probably be more of a right-sided forward in John Hackworth’s new 4-3-3. Plus, you always get the dependable two-way work from Le Toux.

(MORE: the entire roster of ProSoccerTalk’s Major League Soccer previews and predictions)

EURO qualifying wrap: Spain earns place in stoppage time

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Spain clinched a spot in EURO 2020 via a last-minute equalizer, but the rest of the picture only got murkier thanks to dramatics in Romania and Switzerland.)

[ MORE: How should USMNT line up? ]


Sweden 1-1 Spain

A Marcus Berg header had Sweden on the verge of a significant home win against nearly unbeatable David De Gea and Spain, but Valencia forward Rodrigo delivered a stoppage time goal to give Robert Moreno’s men a place in EURO 2020. But Sweden can breathe a little easier thanks to a stoppage time goal across the continent.

Bad news for Manchester United, though, as De Gea’s strong day ended early due to injury.

Romania 1-1 Norway

New York City FC’s Alexandru Mitrita added another beauty to his collection in scoring for the second successive qualifier, but it wouldn’t stand up thanks to former Crystal Palace striker Alexander Sorloth‘s stoppage time equalizer.

Switzerland 2-0 Republic of Ireland

Terrible from the Irish, who trailed after 16 minutes and then went down to 10 men when Seamus Coleman was shown a red card in the 76th minute. Former West Ham man Edimilson Fernandes put it to bed in stoppage time as the Swiss out-attempted Ireland 20-9.

The Irish are tied for the lead in the group with 12 points but that’s about where the good news ends. They do not have an automatic spot in the playoffs while Denmark does and has 12 points. Switzerland has 11 and has also played one fewer match.

Ireland will need to beat Denmark next month and hope for help on the out-of-town scoreboard when Switzerland meets Gibraltar and Georgia.

Finland 3-0 Armenia

Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki continued his fine year with a pair of goals after Fredrik Jensen staked the Finnish side to a lead in Turku. Group J second place side Finland has a five-point lead on chasing Armenia and BNH.

Elsewhere

Faroe Islands 1-0 Malta
Gibraltar 2-3 Georgia
Greece 2-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Liechtenstein 0-5 Italy
Israel 3-1 Latvia

Lloyd: Coming off bench at World Cup “rock bottom of my entire career”

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The upper echelon of the USWNT player pool, especially the veteran generation, just swims in a different competitive gene pool.

Comments from a recent podcast featuring Carli Lloyd are the latest evidence of this, as the USWNT legend calls not starting regularly at this summer’s World Cup “the worst time of my life.”

[ MORE: How should USMNT line up? ]

She says she was happy to be a part of it and happy for her teammates but doesn’t back down from the “worst” diagnosis. Yeah, you read that right.

“I’m not going to lie and sugarcoat it,” Lloyd said on Julie Foudy’s Laughter Permitted podcast. “It was absolutely the worst time of my life. It affected my relationship with my husband, with friends. It really was rock bottom of my entire career. But somehow, you see light at the end of the tunnel, and I can honestly say I’m having more fun now playing than I ever have in my career. I think I just learned a lot throughout it.”

To be fair, Lloyd hasn’t backed up anyone in almost a decade and has since won a Ballon d’Or. Not many elite athletes get used to being second (or fourth) fiddle, especially on a major stage like that.

The personalities on this team are as big as any produced by Ronaldo’s Brazil or Zidane’s France. Some may laugh at this, but it shows what a tremendous job Jill Ellis did in marshaling the team to two-straight World Cups, the first with Abby Wambach in a sub’s role and the second with Lloyd.

It also shows the marvelous competitive nature of Lloyd and the resilience of players who know they’d start for any number of teams in the world. Lloyd says in the podcast that she believed she was playing at near her best level despite being moved from midfielder to forward.

Obviously no player prefers a sub’s role to starting, but — wow — if it isn’t bewildering to hear Lloyd talk about her supporting role at age 37 being the worst time of her life. Different types.

Liverpool’s Alisson, Matip return to training

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Premier League leaders Liverpool have been handed a huge boost ahead of their massive clash at bitter rivals Manchester United on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Remember: Liverpool are eight points clear atop the table and United sit in 12th, so Jurgen Klopp‘s men are keen to rub salt further into the wounds of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s Red Devils.

Alisson and Joel Matip both returned to training at Melwood, with Alisson recovering from a calf injury which he suffered on the opening day of the season.

The Brazilian goalkeeper has been missing after limping out of the 4-1 win against Norwich City on Aug. 9, and his return to full fitness will bolster this already stingy Liverpool defense. Adrian has performed admirably, albeit with a few errors, in Alisson’s absence but it is now time for the superstar goalkeeper to return to action.

As for Matip, the towering center back suffered an injury against Sheffield United and missed Liverpool’s UEFA Champions League win against Red Bull Salzburg and their narrow Premier League victory against Leicester City.

Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren have both come in for Matip but neither have been solid enough and the former Schalke star will slot straight back in alongside Virgil Van Dijk and bring a steadying influence to the entire defensive line. Matip has been sensational this season, just as everyone expected Gomez to take his starting spot.

Another situation to keep an eye on is the fitness of Mohamed Salah, as he trained on his own at Melwood. Salah was caught with a rash challenge by Hamza Choudhury at the end of Liverpool’s win over Leicester and suffered an ankle injury.

Klopp was incandescent with rage about the foul on Salah and it appears the Egyptian winger is in a race against time to be fit for the clash against Man United, although he is reportedly looking good to play at Old Trafford on Sunday.

With the fitness of Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw Anthony Martial, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and others a constant struggle for United in recent weeks, Solskjaer hasn’t had much help in that department.

Having Alisson and Matip back is great news for Liverpool and Klopp.

How should USMNT line up against Canada?

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The USMNT take on Canada in Toronto on Tuesday in a very tasty CONCACAF Nations League clash.

With Gregg Berhalter’s side beating Cuba 7-0 last Friday, they’ll be up for a much tougher test this time.

This feels like a massive game in determining which direction Berhalter’s reign will go in, as a convincing win will make a statement but a defeat would see plenty of questions asked about any progress made over the past two years.

Canada’s attacking trio of Junior Hoilett, Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David will cause the USMNT defense lots of problems, with Davies a global star in the making after being named among the Golden Boy finalists.

As for the USMNT, Berhalter will hope Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Zack Steffen stand tall throughout the spine of the team as Canada fancy their chances of grabbing a marquee win in front of a fired up home crowd.

Below is a look at the strongest possible USMNT lineup, in our opinion, with some reasoning as to why these players should be selected.


USMNT starting XI versus Canada

—– Steffen —–

— Yedlin — Miazga — Long — Ream —

—- McKennie —- Bradley —-

— Morris — Lletget — Pulisic —-

—– Sargent —–


Analysis

Berhalter has said Steffen will start in goal, so no surprise there. In defense DeAndre Yedlin should get the nod at right back but Reggie Cannon has played well, while Matt Miazga and Aaron Long will likely continue at center back. The problem position at left back has been filled by Lovitz and Lima in recent game, while Tim Ream could also start there. Ream’s experience could be key, so it would be good to slot him in where you can.

In midfield Michael Bradley was rested for the game against Cuba and is likely to start in his home stadium, while McKennie’s goalscoring ability was on show with his hat trick but we will have to see more of his defensive prowess against Canada.

In attack, having Christian Pulisic, Jordan Morris and Sebastian Lletget linking across the three attacking midfield positions (Pulisic and Morris starting out wide) would make sense. Josh Sargent is suffering with an ankle knock so if he isn’t fit expect Zardes or Boyd to come in with Morris perhaps switching to a central striking role of Boyd or Paul Arriola come in.